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The Duke of Edinburgh

What does the phrase “in good spirits” actually mean?

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Pool / i-Images

The Duke of Edinburgh is preparing to spend his seventh night in a Central London hospital having been admitted as a patient last Tuesday. Buckingham Palace revealed the following day that the 99-year-old was admitted after “feeling unwell” and that he was “in good spirits.”

No update has been offered on Prince Philip’s health since the initial statement on Wednesday. When enquiries are made, journalists have been referred back to the fact that the Duke is “in good spirits”. But what does this phrase actually mean, and what does it tell us?

Naturally, the fact that Prince Philip is described as being in good spirits can only be a positive thing. As no update has been issued for almost a week, we can assume that the picture remains the same.

However, to my best recollection, there has not been an occasion where a royal has been admitted to hospital and they have not been described as being in good spirits.

The truth of the matter is, Buckingham Palace does not and will not go into any detail about the health of the Duke, or indeed the health of any member of The Royal Family. As such, details of Philip’s illness and the reason for him feeling unwell will not be released into the public domain.

The phrase “in good spirits” is used both to pad out the initial statement announcing the Duke’s hospitalisation, and as a form of reassurance that despite feeling unwell, Philip is in a good frame of mind.

Speculation is rampant on social media, not least because of a visit to the King Edward VII Hospital by the Prince of Wales on Saturday. Needless to say such speculation is not only unfounded, but is unhelpful.

If there are significant developments, Buckingham Palace will make us aware. However, do not be shocked if we hear nothing more until the Duke is discharged.